Information for the General Public


  • In December 2019, a novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in the city of Wuhan, China. At that time, it was reported that the first cases were linked to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan. Since then, the illness it causes has been named COVID-19.
  • Initially, the vast majority of cases were in China. Since then, thousands of cases have been identified in multiple other countries, including the United States.
  • On January 31, the U.S. declared a national public health emergency to aid our healthcare and public health sectors in responding to the outbreak
  • The week of February 23, the CDC reported community spread in California, Oregon, and Washington. Community spread in Washington resulted in the first United States COVID-19 death.
  • On March 5, Maryland Department of Health confirmed the first 3 positive COVID-19 cases in Maryland residents and Governor Larry Hogan declared Maryland in a state of emergency to increase Maryland’s coordinated COVID-19 response
  • On March 11, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. 

About coronaviruses

There are many viruses in the coronavirus family that can cause illness in both humans and animals. Several coronaviruses commonly circulate among people all of the time and cause mild to moderate illnesses like the common cold. Other coronaviruses commonly circulate only in animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve to infect people and spread from person to person, as with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012 and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in the early 2000s.


Commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell


Please refer to our Where to Get Tested website for more information.   

Information about COVID-19 Vaccines

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit our Vaccine Information pageFor more information about where to get vaccinated, click here.


  • In December 2020, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna were granted Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • In February 2021, company  Johnson and Johnson was granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). 
  • The approval of an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA  means the vaccine has been tested and is considered safe and effective for the general public to take.
  • In August 2021, Pfizer was granted full authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine, for those aged 16 and up. 

How do they work?

  • Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are known as mRNA vaccines. 
    • mRNA vaccines help our body develop immunity against COVID-19. Immunity means that your body will quickly recognize the virus that causes COVID-19 and will protect you from getting sick. 
      • mRNA vaccines do not change your DNA 
      • mRNA vaccines do not cause disease
      • mRNA vaccines are not weakened COVID19 virus
  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine 
    • It is made from an inactivated adenovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, and contains a piece of DNA that instructs the body to make the COVID-19 spike protein.
      • It does not contain live coronavirus and will not get you infected with COVID-19.

What are the differences between the Moderna Vaccine, Pfizer Vaccine, and the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine?

  • The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single-dose vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require separate doses to be fully protected from COVID-19. For the Pfizer vaccine, the doses are 21 days apart, and for the Moderna vaccine, the doses are 28 days apart.
  • The Pfizer Vaccine is approved for those aged 16 and up, while both the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are approved for adults aged 18 and up.
  • All of the current vaccines reduce the risk of severe illness. 

Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccines

The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and nausea. Most of these side effects occurred within 1-2 days following vaccination and were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.

Some of those receiving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines also reported fever, joint pain, and lymph node swelling, in addition to the side effects listed above. 


People can protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses by taking the following precautions:

  • Getting vaccinated!
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home from work or school.
  • Wearing a mask/face covering while indoors. 
  • Practice good health habits.

It’s not too late to get your flu shot!

The influenza vaccine does not protect against any coronavirus infection, but it can help keep you healthy during the flu season. Visit our website for more information on getting a flu shot by clicking here! 

Who is at higher risk for getting sick from COVID-19?

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

  • Older adults (60 years old and older)
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease
    • Chronic Kidney disease

If you are at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19 (age 60 years or older or with an underlying medical condition) it is extra important for you to take action to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.

  • Avoid crowds as much as possible
  • Prepare for a potential local outbreak of COVID-19 in our community. This includes stocking up on supplies, food, and prescription medications.
  • When in public, keep away from those who are sick and limit close contact
  • Wash your hands often, especially after being around public areas and high-touch surfaces in public places (elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with others, etc.)
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel

 Frequently Asked Questions about Home Isolation after you've been tested for COVID-19can be found here.


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